There wasn’t the expected Christmas rush by players and teams to sign free agents.
While the Orioles did officially sign South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim to a two-year, $7 million contract just before the holiday break began, an unprecedented number of big name free agents don’t yet have a baseball home for 2016 and beyond.
That’s a huge upset.
Two weeks ago, it seemed that most of the top free agents were gone, and those who weren’t would be in short order.
That didn’t happen.
As we prepare of 2016, not only do Wei-Yin Chen and Chris Davis not have employers for the upcoming season, but many others don’t, either.
Pedro Alvarez, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmond, Dexter Fowler, Alex Gordon, Howie Kendrick, Denard Span, and Justin Upton are among the prominent hitters without a job.
Yovani Gallardo, Scott Kazmir and Ian Kennedy are top name pitchers looking for work, too.
Some of these have gotten offers, good ones, too. Davis had the reported seven-year, $150 one from the Orioles. The Orioles have also shown interest in Alvarez, Gordon and Upton.
Span will conduct a workout for interested teams next month.
They’ve also been serious about Gallardo and Kazmir, too.
Some of those who haven’t signed were given qualifying offers, and it may be a drag on the market for Desmond, Fowler, Kendrick and Kennedy.
A record 20 players were given qualifying offers, and for the first time, three players took the $15.8 million bait. They could return to what’s considered a relatively weak free agent market a year from now.
So could some of the others, but teams may not want to sign players to one-year deals when the cost is a draft pick.
While nearly two months of free agency are behind us, the Orioles still don’t report to Sarasota, Fla. for spring training until Feb. 18, more than six weeks from now.
Some of the big money teams have spent big money—Boston (David Price), Chicago Cubs (Jason Heyward) Detroit (Jordan Zimmermann), San Francisco (Johnny Cueto), a few big spenders: the Angels, Dodgers, Nationals, Rangers and Yankees haven’t splurged, yet, but still may do so.
Each year, there’s always one team that unexpectedly jumps in on a big name, and this year it was Arizona, which lavished its riches on Zack Greinke.
While I was off for a week, a reader wondered about the Orioles and Cespedes.
When Cespedes defected from Cuba, the Orioles showed interest, but were outbid by Oakland.
Cespedes, who turned 30 during the postseason, is seeking a six-year contract. That has probably scared teams away.
His stats have been excellent, especially in the last two months of the 2015 season with the New York Mets.
Cespedes gave the Mets the offensive spark they needed, hitting 17 homers and driving in 44 runs in 57 games. He even got some MVP votes.
He’s certainly an exciting player, but there are some cautionary signs.
Cespedes was traded three times in a year. Oakland traded him to Boston, and they moved him to Detroit, which sent him to the Mets.
Excellent players aren’t usually traded that often.
He plays left field, and the Orioles signed Kim, who’s unproven at the major league level to play there. Cespedes has never played right field.
In 16 games in Baltimore, Cespedes has a .261 average with three home runs and 11 RBIs.
If he wants a one-year platform deal, perhaps the Orioles could sign him because he wasn’t eligible for a qualifying offer. He’ll probably have to settle for less than a six-year deal, but he should get a nice offer shortly after the New year begins.
As for Davis, we’ll continue to wait.
CATCHING UP: There were several moves over the past week:
-Left-handed pitcher Edgar Olmos, who was claimed on waivers earlier this month from Seattle, was lost on waivers to the Chicago Cubs.
-Tim Berry, who spent one night in the Orioles bullpen in June 2014, but didn’t pitch, was claimed on waivers by Miami.
-Infielder Rey Navarro, designated for assignment when Darren O’Day was re-signed, was claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Angels.
The Orioles currently have 39 players on their 40-man roster.
-The Orioles re-signed pitcher Bobby Bundy to a minor league contract and also brought back outfielder Xavier Avery, signing him to a minor league contract. Terry Doyle, who was 16-2 with a 2.16 ERA with Bowie and Norfolk has also been signed to a minor league contract.
Minor league catcher Zach Kapstein was acquired from Boston for cash considerations. Kapstein is the nephew of Jeremy Kapstein, who recently joined the Orioles front office after a long stint with the Red Sox.
-Former Orioles Robert Andino and Troy Patton were signed to minor league contracts by the Marlins.